New York City

A four-year wait ends for grateful New York City participants

Absence normally makes the heart grow fonder, but this was pushing it to the extreme.

Due to the pandemic and dangerous weather in 2019, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge had not been conducted at the event’s birthplace, Central Park, since May 31, 2018.

But the four-year wait came to end on June 1-2 when a total of 20,148 employees from 502 companies registered for the 43rd running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge New York City. It seemed almost as historic as the very first running here – way back on July 13, 1977.

The participants included companies and individuals who go back decades with the event, some new, all grateful for a return to normal.

“Our goal was to return to this annual tradition, foster engagement with our employees, and provide an opportunity to come together as one team to meet others,” said Mark Hammerschmidt, Team Captain for Deloitte, the multinational professional services company. “We really haven’t had too many unique opportunities like this to connect with our colleagues, and a number of our participants tell us that their clients and friends at other companies were running.”

Deloitte’s camaraderie was high from the registration period right through the finish line.

“It adds a sense of friendly competition that lets us connect in a different way,” Hammerschmidt said. “We created awesome T-shirts and promised all 158 participants a post-race celebration! We had an amazing response from employees who were excited to register and get involved.”

In addition to Deloitte, the biggest supporters in terms of participation on each night were: Bloomberg (370 entrants); Mizuho Americas (348); Citadel (263); HSBC (200); and Tapestry (168) on Wednesday, June 1, and American Express (946); Morgan Stanley (606); Goldman Sachs (391); Estee Lauder (200); and BNP Paribas (198) on Thursday, June 2.

Hearst, a leading global, diversified media, information and services company with its headquarters tower on West 57th, two blocks from Central Park, brought 153 employees to the starting line as it celebrated its 135th Anniversary.

“It’s a corporate tradition to celebrate time together in our backyard – Central Park,” said Nick Mastropasqua, the team captain for Hearst at the last 10 Corporate Challenges. “Every moment counts, and this year was heart-warming, to say the least.”

Weather was a factor on both nights for the entrants. Wednesday’s runners completed the 3.5-mile course before heavy rains came through. That precipitation, combined with more heavy downpours on Thursday afternoon, left standing water on the Harlem Hills portion of Central Park, and reduced the Thursday race distance to approximately 2.6 miles.

On the full course Wednesday, Rachel Radnitzer, representing Corporate Challenge owner and operator JPMorgan Chase, won the women’s race with a time of 21:43 (6:12 pace). The men’s champion was Christopher Thompson, representing Pretium, breaking the tape in 17:29 (5:00 pace).

The shortened 2.6-mile course on Thursday was conquered by women’s winner Cecilia Davis-Hayes. Representing New York Presbyterian, Davis-Hayes clocked a 14:17 (5:30 pace). American Express’ Kyle Merber earned the men’s title in 12:45, with the fastest pace of all entrants over the two nights, 4:54.

Radnitzer, who had run in previous Corporate Challenges with previous employer Credit Suisse, took considerable pride in winning the women’s race on Wednesday for her employer, JPMorgan Chase.

“I work in the global commodities trading team at the firm and it’s definitely a very special occasion,” Radnitzer said. “I have a lot of colleagues running and it’s a team effort. It’s been a wonderful day, a great course, and I’m glad to be a part of it. Was really surprised I won, wasn’t expecting that, and it was my first win here. It’s an extra cherry on top.”

Radnitzer, an experienced marathon, was thrilled to see one of her favorite sports serve as a unifying event for the city where she lives and works.

“I’m a big runner generally, but there hasn’t been the normal global running community in a long time. It’s special to be a part of a race that is a lot more accessible,” she said. “A marathon is a lot of work, but most can run 3.5 miles. It’s in the Park, it’s close to so many residential places, people can just get off work and run easily with their friends and teammates. It’s an event that brings everybody together, that’s fun, there’s no pressure, you’re welcome to run, jog, walk, race it. It's a great time to be together, to be active, to bring the city and a lot of companies together.”

On the starting line Wednesday night – making, in his words, “at least my 30th Corporate Challenge appearance,” was J. John Mann, The Paul Janssen Professor of Translational Neuroscience at Columbia University and Director, Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

“The very first time I ran probably was in the late 1980’s, when it was Manufacturers Hanover Corporate Challenge,” Mann said. “At that time, I was working for Cornell New York Hospital and then I moved to New York Presbyterian Columbia. So that sums up my whole career medically.

“The hospital keeps entering a team and I’m pretty good at running,” he smiled, proudly pointing to a USA Triathlon Team t-shirt he was wearing.

Though the 3.5-mile distance isn’t daunting to Mann, he loves the Corporate Challenge for the other benefits.

“I like the camaraderie and I like people in the hospital to realize that you don’t have to stop running when you get older, you can still go on and do things that are useful,” he said. “And this year it was more meaningful. We survived COVID, and especially as a doctor at New York Presbyterian, this is a big day. We are excited; the whole team is pumped.”

There was a bit of additional history among the entrants as, for the first time in New York City, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge welcomed non-binary entrants. Those specific entrants are listed in the Series Leaderboard and are eligible to score in their company’s mixed team results.

A bit of more established history is the relationship between the corporate Challenge and the Central Park Conservancy. JPMorgan Chase once again celebrated the Corporate Challenge through a donation that supports the Conservancy’s mission to restore, manage and enhance Central Park. The Corporate Challenge’s partnership with the Conservancy dates to the not-for-profit’s founding in 1980.

In the last full year of in-person racing, 2019, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series featured 251,299 entrants from 7,581 companies. This year, the Series will include three expansion markets – Buenos Aires, Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia. Now in its 46th year and back on its feet after COVID-19, the Corporate Challenge is ready to spread its appeal wider than ever before.

The Series now heads overseas for its Frankfurt, Germany stop on Wednesday, June 8 which will be quickly followed by its stop in Chicago on Thursday, June 9.

New York City